This most interesting and unusual surname is of Old French origin, and probably originated as a nickname for one who was thought to be a spellbinder or a particularly mischievous person, from the Latin "male-fatus", and "male-fatutus", meaning "unfortunate" or "ill-omened", a term of abuse applied to the Saracens and the devil", and which gave rise to the Old French forms "malfe", "malfeu". Alternatively the name may be a variant of Murphy (Morphy), which is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic name "O'Murchadah", composed of the elements "O", male descendant of, and the personal name "Murchadh", composed of the Gaelic elements "muir", sea, and "cadh", warrior, a popular Irish name. Modern variants include Morfey, Morffew, Morphy, Morphey and Maffey. William Maffet was recorded in "Sir Christopher Hatton's Book of Seals" (Suffolk), circa 1163, while Simon (le) Malfe was mentioned in the Pipe Rolls of Northumberland in 1176. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of William, son of Raffe Morfewe, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, on December 4th 1608, and the marriage of John Morphew and Rebecca Sands in 1686, at St. James's, Dukes Place. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Wido Malfeth, which was dated 1130, in the "Pipe Rolls of Northamptonshire", during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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